Russians Sokol Altius, a medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) developed by OKB Sokol (formerly Simonov Design Bureau) and Tranzas, performed ground attack tests said a source in the military-industrial complex to RIA Novosti. As per the Russians, UCAV SOKOL Altius is comparable to the US-made RQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs. The UAV is built by the Kazan division of the Ural Civil Aviation Plant (UZGA). UZGA makes IAI SEARCHER under license and is called FORPOST in Russia. The company also makes the localised and upgraded FORPOST-R version.
As part of the ongoing flight test at one of the military training grounds, for the first time, Sokol Altius bombed ground targets, said the source. The UCAV is undergoing a series of tests during the summer, striking targets of various types with small bombs and missiles. The UCAV uses a weapon system similar to the Inokhodets strike drone. The system includes free-fall, corrected, and guided small-caliber bombs, as well as guided missiles. During the tests, Altius will be tested to destroy targets like tanks, lightly armored vehicles, accumulations of mock enemy personnel, and artillery positions.
Sokol Altius has a wingspan of under 30m and is propelled by two 500 hp VK-800C turboprop engines developed by the Klimov Design Bureau. The UCAV is capable of climbing a height of 14km with fly autonomously for up to 48 hours (2 days). The empty weight of the UCAV is six tons and can carry a payload of about 2 tons over a combat range of about 3,500km. The variants include Altair – the first demonstrator, Altius-M – the second bigger demonstrator, Altius-U – the third and last demonstrator, showing the final design of the Altius drone when in serial production. Altius is the serial production variant.
As per the Russian media, Altius can interact with the fifth-generation Sukhoi Su-57 fighter jets and its artificial intelligence system can evade air defences and identify major targets like headquarters, communication hubs, and missile launchers, attack and return back.
Russia is creating expertise in drones, which it currently lacks. In the 1950s, Lavochkin and Tupolev experimental design bureaus created trainer and reconnaissance drones, but the USSR was more interested in manned systems. Russia has tried to acquire Israeli drones with mixed results. Russia managed to acquire Bird-Eye 400 (Zastava) and Searcher Mk II drones (Forpost) but failed to acquire Heron drones due to US pressure. In 2011, OAO Gorizont acquired a license to assemble the Austrian Schiebel S-100 drone helicopter. Russia was reportedly interested in Yabhon United 40 MALE UAV from Adcom Systems, United Arab Emirates. in 2011, the Iranians reportedly took control of a U.S. Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel drone, presumably using Soviet-specific equipment (1L222 Avtobaza radar jamming and deception system) and it was reported that the Russians apparently asked Iran for permission to inspect the drone. At present, the key Russian UCAV projects include the Tranzas 1-ton Inokhodets (previously Kronshtadt Orion, similar to the MQ-1 Predator class), the 6 ton Altius-M and the 20 ton Sukhoi S-70 Okhotnik-B UCAV designed by Sukhoi and MiG design bureau’s (former Mikoyan Skat UCAV).